QMA Board Member Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Attiyah (third right) officially opening Al Zubarah Archaeological Site on Thursday. RIGHT: Some of the ruins at the site. Pictures by Kammutty VP
DOHA: Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, the first site in Qatar inscribed onto Unesco’s World Heritage List, was officially opened on Thursday.
Under the patronage of the Chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), H E Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, the opening ceremony was led by QMA Board Member Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, in the presence of other officials and dignitaries.
In time for National Day celebrations, the opening featured the unveiling of the Unesco plaque, along with the opening of the visitor centre and temporary exhibition space.
Al Zubarah is considered one of the largest and best preserved examples of an 18th to 19th century traditional pearl fishing and merchant town in the Gulf and its inscription to the Unesco World Heritage List is an opportunity to build local and international awareness for the site and the values of the World Heritage Convention. It is the first entry for a Qatari site on the international register and one of 981 natural and cultural properties worldwide.
The new visitor centre is open within five rooms of Al Zubarah Fort, and features rotating photo exhibitions that tell the story of this site’s excavation and natural environment. A temporary exhibition which features objects from Al Zubarah and other sites in the north of Qatar and focuses on sea faring, pearl diving, trade and defence are also on display. The launch event also featured traditional foods, along with stone and ceramic workshops.
An historic coastal town that is now abandoned, Al Zubarah is situated approximately 100km north-west of Doha. Founded in the mid-18th century, the town developed into a centre of the pearling and international trade and rose to become the country’s largest and most important settlement. The success of Al Zubarah attracted the attention of other Gulf powers, and after several attacks the town was eventually burned to the ground in 1811. It never fully recovered and was abandoned by the mid-20th century. Al Zubarah Archaeological Site covers an area of 60 hectares with remains of houses, mosques, large fortified buildings and a market.
Faisal Al Naimi, Head of Archaeology, said: “The opening of Al Zubarah is a very significant moment for Qatar’s heritage as it allows us to tell our story to the public in a very tangible way. Visitors are encouraged to experience and engage with the excavation and history of this site through photos, displays and walking tours, which we hope will raise awareness of the value of this site, to Qatar and the Gulf.”
Al Zubarah was first reported as an archaeological site by a Danish-led team of archaeologists in the 1950s, and then excavated by Danish and Qatari teams. As a result of the studies conducted at the site, a large number of archaeological finds from the 18th to 19th centuries are now part of the National Museum of Qatar’s (NMoQ) permanent collection, and will be featured in the museum galleries. The fort is open between sunrise and sunset while the archaeological site, a 10-minute drive from the fort, is open daily from 9am to 4.30pm.
A 30-minute walking track guides visitors through the site; from buried neighbourhoods to excavation areas where a palace and a courtyard house have been investigated by archaeologists and currently being conserved. There are 15 information boards along the trail which provide information on the history of the site, archaeological features and the natural environment.